Monday, June 12, 2017

Book Review: Pieces of Happiness

UK cover
By Becky Gulc

‘I’ve planted my feet on Fijian earth and I intend to stay here until the last sunset . Why don’t you join me? Leave behind everything that didn’t work out!

When recently-widowed Kat writes to her four old school friends, inviting them to live with her on a cocoa plantation in the South Pacific, they swap icy pavements and TV dinners for a tropical breeze and an azure-blue ocean. Leaving behind loneliness, dead-end jobs and marriages that have gone sour, they settle into the Women’s House, surrounded by palms and cocoa trees; and locals with the puzzling habit of exploding into laughter for no discernible reason.

Each of the women has her issues to resolve, and secrets to keep. But together the friends find a new purpose, starting a business making chocolate: bittersweet, succulent pieces of happiness. As they embrace a new culture that views ageing so differently from their own, will they learn to accept and forgive: to discover the value of friendship, and a better way to live?’ (Synopsis courtesy of Penguin UK.)

Isn’t the [UK] cover glorious?  It would stand out for me on a bookshelf and it suits the story perfectly: warm, vibrant, and offering promise and escapism.

The book is about four women in their sixties who are invited to live with their old friend Kat in Fiji, to see out their days together and to care for one another. The invites basically come out of the blue, as this is a group of friends that haven’t been close for many years, but they retain sisterly love for each other regardless – and this is why for various reasons these old friends take Kat up on the invite. Each one is hopeful the move may bring an escape from: home, a money-grabbing son, a seemingly over-protective daughter, a degenerative illness, a philandering partner. Then there’s Kat, recently bereaved but not yet ready to talk about it. Will these old friends be the support she needs?

Whilst I certainly wouldn’t say this book is ‘chick lit’ I enjoyed it thoroughly and found it completely refreshing to read, not least because these were women who were older than ones I’d usually read about; the book is all the richer for it.

US cover
I did feel transported to a place I admit I know practically nothing about, and it was wonderful. The writing is beautiful throughout, every few pages I would think ‘ooh that’s a really good line’ and nothing appeared to be lost in translation. The narrative was strong and I enjoyed how the present and past was often explored within the same chapters without being hard work for the reader; it just worked. I also particularly loved the short, but frequent, chapters featuring the prayers of Kat’s housekeeper Ateca, providing a further native’s perspective on how these women were getting on in Fiji.

With the housekeeper and the five ladies, there are quite a few characters to keep up with, but it never felt an effort or like too many, even though I initially perceived this to be that way. Each one offered something different and were key to the great dynamics of the book.

The story is very much a journey with the new chocolate business being a great opportunity for the women, but not without its challenges.  I loved how these women embraced a new opportunity. It might have sounded idyllic, to get away, up and leave your existing life, but this book features the good and the bad of such a move and I appreciated that.

A wonderful charming book that deserves to be seen on sun loungers this summer!

Thanks to Transworld for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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2 comments:

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Janine said...

First off I love the covers. I just added this book to my wish list. It sounds really good. I enjoyed the review too.